Friday May 02, 2003

Going Once

In the April 30, 2003 edition of The New York Times, an article, Art Auctions Buffeted by Events, brings up distress sales and thinner catalogs from Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and de Pury & Luxembourg, in what may be an uncertain season—war and a “shaky” economy can also effect superrich collectors and sellers.

Renoir’s “In the Roses” is estimated to go for between $20 to $30 million; Pollack’s well-known drip “No.17, 1949” is expected to go for up to $7 million, plus “Dancer” by Degas may go as high as $12 million. Then, there is a self-portrait by Cezanne (done in 1895 when the artist was 55) that may fetch between $15 to $20 million, which may be a bargain since it had been on the market privately for $50 million.

For the artist, the article, while perhaps factual, is strewn with irony.

The Times reporter goes into the details of who is selling and who is buying. The players in this piece are, after all, dealing in the art as a commodity market. Fewer works by emerging artists and cutting edge art are being offered. It seems, according to Sotheby’s, “People now want the classics, art that endures.”

Emerging artist is an awful reference. And what precisely does cutting edge mean? These labels and concepts are invented by marketing folk.

The irony is that in the selling and buying frenzy that involve millions, the intrinsic value of the art is lost and the artist becomes a pawn in the game of who “owns” what piece of famous art.

Certainly, the true artist deserves to be rewarded for what he or she has earned through dedication and a body of work that comes only from a creator. And, in truth, there is plenty to go around to support the work of all artists.

What we need are more impresarios who can tell whether they are looking at work of art—even if it’s by someone not yet known to the public. The art lover must work as hard as the artist. There is no quick fix to acquire culture—you have to acquire it over time.

And where will these art lovers come from? How about you?»

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